CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Councilman Romy Cachola questioned former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta about the mass-transit system yesterday during a meeting. The Council postponed for at least another week its long-awaited decision on the type of technology for the $3.7 billion mass-transit system.
Short one, Council deadlocks on transit
The mayor slams the City Council as being in a state of chaos and confusion
STORY SUMMARY »
| READ THE FULL STORY
The City Council Limited never left the station last night.
Without the vote of its chairwoman, Barbara Marshall, the Council failed to reach a majority decision on the technology for the city's mass-transit system.
A bill that would keep alive three transit options -- rail, rubber-tire and magnetic levitation -- will be reconsidered on Wednesday, when Marshall is expected to attend.
But with no clear direction from the Council, the city administration will be able to select its preferred technology, steel wheels on steel rails.
"It's clear that the City Council is in a state of chaos and confusion," said Mayor Mufi Hannemann. "I've directed my director of transportation services to begin inserting steel-on-steel as the technology in the draft environmental impact statement."
Meanwhile yesterday, the city released a list of companies working on the transit system, with contracts worth more than $107 million. Two of the contracts worth six figures a year are for public relations practitioners.
"All this spending of taxpayer money on public relations is basically bribing the taxpayers with their own money," lamented Councilman Charles Djou.
Firms cashing in on transit funding
The city has hired three companies to work on the $3.7 billion mass-transit system with contracts totaling more than $107 million. Several City Council members raised concerns over the amount of money spent on public outreach by subcontractors hired by these companies:
Parsons Brinckerhoff Quade & Douglas: $10,210,000
PB Americas: $86,000,000
FULL STORY »
City Council members were deadlocked on the type of technology for the $3.7 billion mass-transit system, postponing the long-awaited decision for at least another week.
The absence of Council Chairwoman Barbara Marshall because of a family emergency changed the outcome in yesterday's meeting, resulting in several 4-4 votes. Five votes were needed to approve or reject a technology.
In a news conference following the nine-hour meeting, Mayor Mufi Hannemann expressed frustration and said the city will move forward with rail as the technology for the system.
"It's clear that the City Council is in a state of chaos and confusion," Hannemann said. "I've directed my director of transportation services to begin inserting steel-on-steel as the technology in the draft environmental impact statement."
The City Council rejected several versions of the bill and eventually voted 2-6 on a bill that names three technologies -- rail, rubber-tire and magnetic levitation. Members will reconsider this bill at a meeting on April 23, which Marshall is expected to attend.
At that meeting, the Council could either pass the bill with three technologies or kill the bill, both of which would leave the ultimate decision to the Hannemann administration.
"You cannot move ahead with three technologies," said Councilman Nestor Garcia. "That's not practical or feasible. I don't think the people of the City and County of Honolulu would like just the administration to make that decision ... but we handed over our obligation to the selection of the technology."
"We need to move forward," said Councilman Todd Apo, who supports a rail system. "If giving up our right to select technology gets us to the result, I'm fine with it. The result is more important than the process."
Councilman Romy Cachola, who was seen as the deciding vote since he was the only member not to publicly voice his choice for technology prior to the meeting, said this move keeps the bill and technology discussion alive.
"I like it because I can go back to my constituents and explain to them about noise, costs and property taxes," Cachola said, adding that he did not see himself as the swing vote.
More than 60 people testified at the meeting, including former U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, now a project consultant hired by the city at a cost of $120,000 a year.
"There's nothing like dependability," Mineta said, voicing his support for rail. "There's no reason to reinvent the wheel."
Others supported a rubber-tire system -- which Councilmembers Donovan Dela Cruz and Ann Kobayashi want -- saying construction costs would be less than a rail system.
For months, city officials have debated the selection of technology for the mass-transit system. A 2006 law gives the City Council the right to make the selection. In November, Hannemann proposed giving this responsibility to a panel of transit experts as a way to take politics out of the decision-making.
In February the panel of five experts -- five men with various transportation expertise chosen by councilmembers and the administration -- picked steel rail in a 4-1 vote. The panel members, excluding University of Hawaii-Manoa engineering professor Panos Prevedouros, said rail is reliable and would give the city the best competitive advantage when seeking bids.